Roger Staubach: Hail Mary, concussions and grandkids

Photo Credit: Danny Fulgencio

Before Roger Staubach was a household name or “Hail Mary” was part of our everyday vernacular, the football great was a teen attending Catholic school in Cincinnati. He’s transformed into a Dallasite since being drafted from the U.S. Naval Academy to the Cowboys in 1964. Staubach now lives in Preston Hollow and works as executive chairman of commercial property firm JLL Americas. 

What’s your favorite thing to do with your grandchildren?
I enjoy going to their sporting events. My wife is fantastic about having the kids come over and having sleepover nights with them. Like on Valentine’s Day, we’ll have them all over.  We’re fortunate they all live in Dallas, so we get to go to their games. They like coming over to the house, so they can take advantage of us. We’re a little more generous. You don’t want your kids to have a piece of cake and a cookie all the time. But when the grandkids come over, all they have to do is ask, and it’s automatic. In other words, you spoil them more than you do your children. 

What’s the biggest difference between being a parent and being a grandparent?
Being a parent, you have responsibilities every single day watching your kids grow up and being available to them. It’s more of a direct relation. Grandkids — you love them, but they’re also with your children. They’re not living with you, but you still go to their games, and they’re part of your family. You’re able to have breathing room in between.

Why did you choose the U.S. Navy?
I was invited to visit the Naval Academy through a football coach. He really was after me because I was a high school quarterback. When I visited the Naval Academy, I really liked the atmosphere. I liked that I could get a really great education and play sports. If he hadn’t recruited me, I probably would not have done it on my own. I had some other scholarship offers, but I felt that was the right place for me. The academy just clicked.

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If you hadn’t joined the Naval Academy, how different would your life have been?
I don’t know if I would’ve been in Vietnam or not. Who knows what I would’ve done in college — if I still would’ve wanted to go into the military. I think we were still drafted back then, so I would’ve gone if I was drafted. But I would’ve gone through college. Coming out of the Naval Academy, I volunteered to go to Vietnam.

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What did the Navy teach you the most?
There are just a lot of things about leadership, teamwork, making sure you care about someone other than yourself. In the military, you have a lot of responsibility to others. The academy taught me a lot about hard work.

Did you ever imagine “Hail Mary” would be used as often as it is and in the context it is?
When I said it after the game, it was an AP writer that picked it up. If he didn’t do that, it probably wouldn’t have. Back in those days, if you threw a pass at the end of the game it was an alley-oop or the bomb. So, they asked, “What were you thinking about when you threw the ball?” I said, “I just closed my eyes and threw a Hail Mary.” There was a wish-and-a-prayer mentality to it. I used the term “Hail Mary,” because I was a Catholic kid from Cincinnati. I’m kind of proud of it. Now it’s used for everything.

What has been the greatest victory and hardest loss when you look back on your football career?
My first victory over the Army and my first Super Bowl victory were highlights as far as winning big games. We beat Army twice, and we lost the third time, so that was a tough loss. Losing the Super Bowl to the Steelers was a tough loss.

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Do you have any regrets in football?
I don’t have any regrets, but I got hurt now and then. That’s part of the game. I was fortunate I got to be on a good Navy team and had the chance to play for the Cowboys. We had our moments, both with the Navy and with Dallas. We had some good years. In the Navy, we had a great year in ’63.

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Early in your NFL career, Tom Landry chose between you and Craig Morton for quarterback. Do you think about how your career could’ve been different?
Your life can swing so many different ways. But no matter what you do, you’re going to figure out how to deal with the situation. If Don Meredith hadn’t retired, my life would’ve been different. I would’ve been the third-team quarterback. Of course Craig was really a good quarterback, but he had a few injuries. We competed in ’71. If they had won the Super Bowl, ironically, against Baltimore, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance to play. Who knows if they would’ve turned out differently. They might’ve traded me, and we would’ve won 10 Super Bowls somewhere. I’m just kidding. I do feel fortunate to come play with coach Landry, the Cowboys and the great players here. I was also fortunate to go to the Naval Academy at a time when we had some really good football teams. You take twists and turns in the real estate business, too. If I had not been with Mr. Miller at the Henry S. Miller Company, I might’ve not stayed in real estate, either. 

With serious brain injuries becoming prevalent, how has the NFL changed?
The concussions I had through the years, they were called “dingers.” Today, they’re concussions. They’re very concerned about that. Your brain has to heal, so they keep you out today. They might keep you out two to three weeks, so that’s good. Back in the old days, if you felt OK the next day, then you were out there. They’re doing better things with equipment, keeping players off the field. It’s still something everyone has to deal with. It’s not just NFL. It’s soccer. It’s lacrosse. You can get hurt playing basketball. They’re now making sure you’re fully recovered before they’ll let you play again. 

Being in Preston Hollow for so long, is there any property you wish you had bought?
Golly, I was with the Henry S. Miller company in 1970. I had some interest in the land at Preston and 121. We turned it back; we didn’t keep it. I didn’t have the money for a lot of property at the time, back in the old times. Buying property in Dallas, Texas, and Preston Hollow would’ve been a homerun. We’re fortunate with the lot we have. We’ve been there almost 10 years now. Preston Hollow is a pretty great place.

What’s been the biggest change in the neighborhood?
There hasn’t been a great change in our neighborhood. There haven’t been any teardowns. It’s a great street because there are big trees, and there hasn’t been a lot of traffic. In our little area, it’s almost all the same.


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